Camp Totus Tuus in full swing at new diocesan campground

Young ladies watch camp leaders during a game. (Advance photo)

Camp Totus Tuus is in full swing at the new diocesan campground in Reno County.

With a record number of young people attending this year, the campground has come alive with the sounds of laughter, conversation, singing, and prayer. The previously serene lake is now filled with campers swimming, playing, and canoeing. The mess hall becomes a hub of activity at mealtimes and for other events throughout the day. The makeshift chapel fills up for daily Mass and times of prayer. In the amphitheater overlooking the lake, campers encounter Jesus in Eucharistic adoration under the stars each night.

To be open to entire diocese

“It’s a beautiful thing…this new campground will give young people and families a place to go out into the wilderness and grow closer to our Lord and one another,” said Anthony Keiser, the director of the diocesan Office of Faith Formation.

Just six months after acquiring the campground with support from the One Family, Fully Alive in Christ! Campaign, the diocese completed the renovations and maintenance work needed to host the overnight camp at the new location. Even before any new cabins or other facilities are built, the camp can accommodate more than 300 additional campers over the summer, meaning fewer families are turned away due to a lack of accommodations.

“I’m incredibly proud that we can host Camp Totus Tuus at the new location this year,” Keiser added. “It was not easy to get it ready in time and there were so many people who came together to make that happen, but seeing the campers have such a great experience makes all the hard work worth it.”

An endorsement from the bishop

Bishop Carl A. Kemme visits the new campground often to spend time with the campers and counselors and share their joy and enthusiasm for their Catholic faith.

“I love visiting the camp,” Bishop Kemme said. “It’s inspiring to see so many young people from across the diocese come together to share in faith and fellowship. This has been a dream for our diocese for a long time – it’s exciting to think about the impact this new camp will have on our Catholic community for many years to come.”

The new camp property is located just 65 minutes from downtown Wichita and features a spring-fed lake, 12 existing buildings, an amphitheater, walking trails, and other great amenities. In addition to Camp Totus Tuus, the facility is ideal for a variety of parish and school programs, days of recollection, retreats, and faith formation experiences for young people, families and other groups.

Diocesan leaders are currently working with an architect and camp consultant to develop a master plan and business plan for the camp over the coming months. Preliminary plans and conceptual drawings will be completed later this year. A new name for the property is also being discussed and will be shared soon.

‘Vital’ to our diocese

“This camp is a vital thing, a necessary thing, in a culture that is very nervous and anxious about quiet and separation and solitude,” said Fr. Drew Hoffman, a former counselor and priest of the diocese. “With the new facilities, the potential to attract even more campers and shape their spiritual journeys becomes increasingly promising.”

Camp Totus Tuus draws not only from metro Wichita but also from across the region. Over the last 15 years, more than 7,200 campers have attended the week-long overnight youth camp, with nearly a third coming from outlying parts of the diocese and some traveling from other states to attend.

In addition to the great memories and lifelong friendships, many campers and counselors experience an early call to the priesthood or religious life while there. In fact, more than 90% of diocesan seminarians have attended Camp Totus Tuus or served as a counselor at some point during their high school years.

“I went to Camp Totus Tuus as a counselor, and I experienced the Lord in a way I never had before and I experienced a call to the priesthood,” Fr. Drew said. “This camp bears fruit in so many ways, including in the many priestly and religious vocations that were nurtured or grew stronger as a result of the camp.”

Funds raised through the One Family, Fully Alive in Christ! Campaign will cover the cost to purchase the property, renovate existing facilities, clean up the grounds, and eventually build new cabins. In addition, an endowment will be established to help with ongoing maintenance and operations and to provide financial assistance to families in need.